Ziemann: Corporations don’t care about you

Columnist Megan Ziemann believes corporations to be profit-driven, manipulating social circumstances to earn monetary gain.  

Megan Ziemann

Back in March, I watched the first advertisement that made me cry. It was from Facebook, and showed empty city streets, first responders, patients and smiling, persevering people to the tune of spoken word poetry and piano. “There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces,” the poet said, and my worries faded. 

And then it tried to sell me Facebook Portal.

I can’t open social media without seeing them — “feel-good” corporate advertisements with sanguine imagery and soft-spoken narrators. “We’re in this together in these unprecedented times,” they boast, “Now is the time for unity.”

It’s a lie. 

If we were really in this together, no one should have to worry about losing health care along with their job. 

If we were really in this together, survivors of workplace sexual assault wouldn’t have to choose between justice and their careers. 

If we were really in this together, corporations wouldn’t have received $500 billion in bailouts while everyday workers were expected to survive on $1,200.

If we were really in this together, billionaires wouldn’t exist.

I’ve been in business school for the past three years and none of this is a surprise. Corporations have always had the same profit-over-people mindset — in fact, entire presidential campaigns were based on the fact that the future leader would end the corporate chokehold on markets (hello, Teddy Roosevelt). From Henry Ford to Jeff Bezos, CEOs will do whatever it takes to line their pockets.

The bottom line is simple. Corporations do not care about you. They never have and they never will. The only thing they want is your money, and they will manipulate your heartstrings with emotional advertising to get it. 

Why do you think marketers are so valuable? We know how people work. We know how to get them to see the world the way our company wants them to see it. I’ll give you three examples of advertising that changed mindsets now — De Beers, Chipotle, Dove. Look them up. Yes, some of these campaigns were addressing social issues, and that’s great, but they still are selling a product. 

Why can’t corporations use their billions to put out the social justice part of the message and drop the advertisement? Because that won’t make them money.

Advertising is a powerful force and consumers must know how it works. I’m a marketing major. I’ve studied this. From now on, be cognizant of the advertisements you see, and remember that at their core, advertisements are all they are. When looking at an advertisement, try to find three things: the sales pitch, the product and the underlying message. Yes, that Facebook ad had a nice underlying message that humans need each other, but it made sure its product, a video-chatting Google Home-esque machine, fit that need.

Don’t let the touchy-feely messaging get to you. Don’t let yourself be convinced a corporation wants anything more than just your money.

But let’s look on the bright side for a bit. That Facebook ad did work on me, in a way. I’m never buying a Facebook Portal.

Megan Ziemann, senior in marketing.